“John Tory is a decent, hard-working, worldly and intelligent man… He never had a chance.” – Andrew Steele
For the record (immature reactive cheap-shots notwithstanding), I like and respect John Tory, and my heart goes out to him today. I disagree with him on many issues, but he comes by his positions thoughtfully and defends them with honesty and integrity. Would that we could say that about more politicians.
In the end, it turns out Tory was a bad politician—not because of who he is, but because of who we expect politicians to be.
That’s not to excuse or exonerate him completely. I would not have made many of the same decisions he did, and ultimately only he can be held accountable for his own performance. I just think it’s worth reflecting on what kind of political leadership we want in this country, and comparing that to the types of people we tend to vote for. Seems to me there’s a disconnect.
And finally, still for the record, the great religious schools debate of October 2007 (sometimes referred to as the Ontario General Election) should live on as Dalton McGuinty’s great shame, not Tory’s. At least Tory was taking a principled position on equality (it was the wrong principled position on equality mind you, but still). The Liberals and the NDP, on the other hand, formally adopted the position that they favour and support religious discrimination, and played on xenophobic sentiment towards people of faith in order to do it. As Andrew Coyne puts it:
History will record that the premier of Ontario, in the year 2007, could begin a televised debate with a veiled — you should pardon the expression — warning that the Conservativesâ€™ religious schools proposal would mean â€œstrife in the streets,â€ of the kind witnessed in â€œParis and London.â€ Hmmm. Paris… London… What sort of strife could he have meant? Could he have had in mind… the Muslim kind? The beauty of it was, the Liberals never had to say it out loud: â€œeek, a Muslim!â€ The premier could appear to be singing the same old hymns to tolerance and pluralism, even as he was exploiting much darker sentiments.
Yes, let’s hope historians—and voters—are paying that much attention.
UPDATE (Saturday, 8:10 am): Today’s Globe editorial:
Both his personal defeat, and the party defeat, can be interpreted as a setback caused in some measure by a principled stand taken by Mr. Tory. He thought it proper to run in a constituency in which he had personal ties, and he thought that Roman Catholics should not be the only faith group to receive publicly funded religious schooling – that addressing this historic inequity was the correct thing to do. But as political decisions both were failures, and Mr. Tory was aspiring to be premier, not an ethicist.
…His critics will now have an opportunity to find a better leader, although they will be hard-pressed to find a better person.